Is True Representation A Function of Race?

December 13 meeting of Anahem Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections.

December 13 meeting of Anaheim Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections.

I’d like to share this excerpt from a comment on the Orange Juice Blog (scroll down to the bottom of the post) by Anaheim activist Ricardo Toro. He writes about his experience during public comments at last week’s meeting of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections:

“I followed stating that as a latino I feel that the city council composition does not adequately represent latinos, and that the new council should consider saving taxpayer money by settiling the lawsuit.

The latinos members of the commision present at that moment jumped on me, that latinos have been represented, recently by Ms Galloway. Later I found that they are the ones appointed by Ms Eastman. The other latino who came late to the meeting was also against districting; he is the one appointed by Ms Murray. Overall the majority of this commission is not pro-district, reflecting the political vision of the council members who appointed them.”

Reading Mr. Toro’s claim that he was “jumped on” made me wonder if we attended the same meeting. At the Citizens Advisory Committee meeting I attended, there was indeed a Ricardo Toro who expressed those sentiments during public comments – but no committee member “jumped on” him.

What did happen was committee member Gloria Ma’ae calmly and respectfully disagreed with Mr. Toro’s contention that in the absence of a councilmember of his ethnicity, he was not represented on the city council.

Here is what Ms. Ma’ae said:

“As a Latina, I feel very fortunate that we have had plenty of representation, such as Bob Hernandez, [Richard] Chavez, Lorri Galloway. The Bobs were just the prior council to this current council, and, also, as far as the districting, there are many possibilities from what I’m hearing in these meetings – I am learning a lot about what our options are, and we haven’t even heard them all, yet. 

So I would like to ask you to have some patience, and keep an open mind, and wait to hear what the experts and the two speakers that we’re going to have today from Vista and Modesto, and see what their input is, and see what we might be able to come up with, what kind of recommendation we can make that’s in the best interest of all, not just the Latino community, for everyone. There are many different cultures in this city, and personally,  I want too be represented as an individual, as a human being, as a resident – not just as a Latina.”

Yeah – she really jumped all over him.

You can watch her comments for yourself on the video of the committee meeting, starting at the 19:23 mark. Not only did Ms. Ma’ae NOT “jump” on Mr. Toro, but she expressed totally mainstream views for more in synch with the vast majority of Anaheim residents than Mr. Toro’s racially-tinged viewpoint.

Mr. Toro complained on Orange Juice that the committee is not pro-district. Well, they aren’t supposed to be biased in favor of any particular system. That’s kind of the point of the exercise.

This process makes clear that core supporters of the ACLU litigation view the world through race-colored glasses: only a Latino can represent a Latino, a view that is more consonant with the structure of the parliament of apartheid South Africa than representative government in the United States.

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  1. Mr Cunningham

    Whether the commission members appointed by Ms Eastman jumped at me or not, it was clear that they genuinely and naively believe that there is no under-representation problem in our city.

    Let’s remind ourselves of the background to the creation of this commission. You may have read the account of the OC Weekly’s editor, born and raised in Anaheim, in his piece titled Anaheim’s Tragic Kingdom. If his account is too radical for you, let’s see what the LA Times reported:

    “ … Anaheim faces a similar demographic shift now, and many see it at the root of recent angry protests over the fatal police shootings of two Latino men. According to the latest U.S. census, Anaheim is now majority minority. About 52% of the city’s 336,000 residents are Latino, but only a handful of Latinos have ever won council seats.
    Anaheim is also the largest city in California that still elects council members at large, meaning council members are elected on a citywide basis. Like Santa Ana in the 1990s, Anaheim is now under growing pressure to switch to district voting, which usually makes it easier for minority groups to win council seats because voting is broken up into smaller geographic segments. The City Council could decide next week to put the question on the November ballot.
    Anaheim is just the latest California city to reach this threshold, where traditional minority groups attain majority status in population but still struggle to get more political power.
    This gap is especially pronounced in cities with large immigrant communities, where many residents cannot vote. Only half of the voting-age Latinos in Anaheim are citizens, according to census data.
    …District elections in Anaheim could dramatically change the political dynamic. A neighborhood-by-neighborhood analysis of census data by The Times shows that the city is deeply segregated along ethnic lines.
    There is a strong white majority in the city’s newer, more affluent east side, including picturesque Anaheim Hills, an enclave nearly physically separated from the rest of the city. About 58% of the residents are white. The area has a median income of more than $100,000.
    Latinos dominate in the central core of Anaheim generally between the 5 and 55 freeways, an area marked by barrios and dense apartments. Here, 68% of the residents are Latino and incomes fall below the Orange County average. Pockets of this community have poverty rates exceeding 25%, the analysis found.
    The western section of Anaheim, near Disneyland, represents a third demographic. This area is the most diverse section of the city, where Latinos make up about 51% of the population. The majority of the city’s blacks and Asians live there.
    Census records show a dramatic disparity in education.
    Nearly half the adults age 25 and above in the east have graduated from college, with one in six holding a master’s degree or higher. Fewer than one in five in the central and western areas have co llege degrees, and about the same number were high school dropouts.” ( Council districts could alter power dynamic in Anaheim August 04, 2012)

    At the commission meeting, the Loyola University professor presented a summary of the California Voting Rights Act. This is a similar explanation from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    “The California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA) was signed into law on 9 July 2002.[1] The act expands on the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, making it easier for minority groups in California to prove that their votes are being diluted in “at-large” elections.[1] In 1986 the U.S. Supreme Court established conditions that must be met to prove that minorities are being disenfranchised; the CVRA eliminated one of these requirements. Unlike the Federal Voting Rights Act, the CVRA does not require plaintiffs to demonstrate a specific geographic district where a minority is concentrated enough to establish a majority. This makes it easier for minority voters to sue local governments and eliminate at-large elections.[2]
    In 2007, the California State Supreme court ruled the act constitutional in Sanchez v. The City of Modesto.[3] The city claimed that the act was unconstitutional because it inherently favored people of color; the court concluded that the act was not racist in nature and returned to case to trial court.[3]
    Critics of the act argue that it inappropriately makes race a predominant factor in elections and that it does not make sense to eliminate the requirement to establish a geographic district where there is a minority concentration.[2] Advocates argue that at-large elections allow bloc voting that effectively keeps minorities out of office.[4]”

    I feel insuting that you would compare the efforts to bring democratic changes, embodied in the Voting Rights Acts, to the apartheid South African regime. On a personal level, I would not vote for a Latino just because the candidate is a Latino. I would not vote for Chavez Lodge in any kind of electoral system. It is not a question of having racially tinged viewpoint. It is a question of addressing the roots causes of the explosive issues affecting our city.

    I am a civic minded resident who cares about moving the city forward. You may read my views on the currrent developments in my recent post …..Your interpretation of the events in our city reflects an interest in maintaining the status quo. I understand that you are a professional blogger, and you have been reluctant to disclose whether you receive some kind of compensation for your work on this blog. Your contribution to the civic discussion and affairs of our city could be taken seriously if you answer the compensation question.

  2. Matthew Cunningham

    Ricardo, your position is that race should be a factor in determination representation on the Anaheim City Council., You have stated that the current absence of Latinos on the city council means that Latinos are unrepresented. The inescapable conclusion is you believe true representation is a function of race, and that seats should be apportioned according to race. The difference between your position and the old apartheid South African parliament is one of degree, not kind.

    But hey, I’ll grant that was a fairly inflammatory comparison. But that doesn’t change the fact you support for racially-based representation. Citing the CVRA — which is based on the un-American idea that race should be a factor in determining representation — doesn’t make your position right or good.

  3. Matthew Cunningham

    “Whether the commission members appointed by Ms Eastman jumped at me or not, it was clear that they genuinely and naively believe that there is no under-representation problem in our city.”

    That is a huge leap, and completely unwarranted by the comments made by committee members at that meeting. I think anyone who watches the video of the committee meeting would agree with me.

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